|WMU's Confucius Institute offers educational/business links to China|
Western Michigan University became home to a Confucius Institute this fall, a development that will provide new Chinese language and cultural studies options for WMU students and faculty and dramatically expand international opportunities for area K-12 schools and local businesses.
Pictured above (l-r): Carol McCloud, Dr. Wang, Dr. McCloud; Dr. Xu Lin, General Director and Chief Executive of Confucius Institute Headquarters and Hanban, WMU President Dr. John Dunn, Linda Dunn, Dr. Lujiang Wang, chair of the University Council of Beijing Language and Culture University; Mr. Cao, the Deputy Director of Development Office at Hanban.
President John M. Dunn and a small campus delegation, including Dr. Donald G. McCloud, dean of WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education, and Dr. Xiaojun Wang, professor of foreign languages and head of the University's Chinese language program, traveled to China in early July to finalize a set of agreements that established the WMU Confucius Institute."The Confucius Institute program represents the commitment on the part of the Chinese government to extend and expand knowledge about China and its language and culture with people all over the world," McCloud said. "The program represents one of the largest intercultural education programs ever established, and although differing in format, in the area of international education, the Confucius Institute program holds many goals similar to our Fulbright scholar and student exchange programs."
The following goals have been set for WMU’s Confucius Institute:
Four contracts were signed by President Dunn and the Chinese counterparts at the prestigious Beijing Language and Culture University, China's premier institution for language instruction. The related five-year renewable agreements make WMU a formal partner in an international effort to expand the teaching of Chinese language and culture. This effort is undertaken with the support of the Office of Chinese Language Council International of China's Ministry of Education, known more commonly as the Hanban.
"A major component of these partnerships and the entire Confucius Institute network is the commitment of each member to provide new opportunities for local school districts and business communities," says Dunn. "The Hanban recognized WMU's existing strengths in China studies and the caliber of our existing language specialists and researchers. They were convinced of this University's ability to leverage those strengths to extend benefits to the entire region."
The agreements signed in China July 7 will bring six or seven Chinese language faculty members, financially sponsored by the Chinese partners, to the WMU campus each year to help the University expand language arts and cultural offerings on campus. In addition, WMU's library holdings will be enhanced, and the Beijing school will designate WMU as one of its major study abroad sites and begin sending as many as 30 students to study in Kalamazoo each year.
"It was a very fruitful and productive tour," said Dr. Wang. "These contracts make history at our university and will increase WMU’s presence on the international map. In the world there are only 350 Confucian Institutes. This partnership demonstrates that WMU truly is a national and notable university."
The WMU Confucius Institute will be supported over its first five years with funding from the Hanban, which will be matched by WMU largely with support for such things as office space and personnel needs, assistance to visiting professors, faculty time in several colleges for institute work, travel, curriculum development and designation of an institute director. In addition to faculty salaries, funding from Hanban will provide operating funds on an annual basis.
at left: Dr. Wang with students in China
WMU's Confucius Institute proposal was developed by Dr. Wang, Dr. Roger Tang, professor of accountancy and Upjohn Chair of Business Administration; and Dr. Dewei Qi, professor of paper engineering, chemical engineering and imaging. Also involved were Dr. Cynthia Running -Johnson, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages; W. Wilson Woods, associate dean of the Haenicke Institute and Dr. Susan Stapleton, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
"We wouldn't have been able to establish the Confucius Institute at WMU without teamwork, joint efforts and support by the whole University community," Wang says. "It is a sign of our University's commitment to global education. It also marks a new step of our long journey. The Confucius Institute at WMU will serve as a window and bridge to China for our University and the region."
at left: Dr. Donald McCloud, dean, Haenicke Institute
McCloud will chair the Institute Executive Committee and Wang will serve as the Confucius Institute director. Tang and Qi will serve as members of the advisory committee. The WMU proposal was supported by the University's existing China Study Group, which includes more than 30 faculty members from across the University whose expertise is in Chinese Studies. Dr. Wang became leader of the CSG in spring of 2009 and he says the group’s mission is to increase friendship and understanding between people and to sponsor activities that will help people better understand China’s culture and language. The CSG is one of about 10 groups in an international brown-bag series initiated by McCloud in fall 2008 that host monthly meetings where guest speakers and lecturers share research and ideas. Brown Bag Series Schedule.
WMU's partner institution in China, the Beijing Language and Culture University, is one with which the University has had a long relationship. Dr. Timothy Light, professor emeritus of comparative religion, served as a visiting professor at BLCU in the early 1980s; Wang has been serving as a visiting professor there since 2002; BLCU's former president, Professor Lu Bisong, holds an honorary doctorate from WMU; and University students have routinely traveled to Beijing to study there since 1998. During the July visit, the delegation met with a group of WMU students who are now enrolled there, participating in one of the four study abroad programs the University hosts in China.
President Dunn meets with current and former WMU students at BLCU,
L-R: Daniel Hadley, Jaime LeBlanc-Hadley, President Dunn,
Adam Chapa, and John Abbey and Verna Leung
The international network of institutions WMU is joining includes the world's premier universities, each with a Confucius Institute and each in a formal partnership with a Chinese university or institute. American universities in the network now number 61, with the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and WMU becoming the 60th and 61st members, respectively, this summer. Michigan is the only state with four Confucius Institutes, with Michigan State and Wayne State universities also part of the initiative.
Confucius Institute activities are expected to begin immediately, but the University will have a formal ceremonial launch for the initiative in November. That ceremony is expected to attract the directors of Hanban and the president of Beijing Language and Culture University.
Portions of this article appeared in a press release issued by WMU University Relations Aug. 1, 2009.
Story by Julia Valentine